The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'scott parkin'


As of today, it is a crime in Australia to make any statement that inspires discontentment with the monarchy (there goes the Fenian wing of the republican movement), either house of parliament, or any of Australia's allies (looks like Brendan Nelson finally has a stick to use against the "anti-American" teachers he has been griping about). So you'd better lay off the unkind remarks about fat SUV drivers, Australians.

I wonder whether Australia's allies include Singapore, China or Saudi Arabia, and, if so, how much criticism of these states' human rights record or democratic credentials is allowable.

As for claims that the government won't use the sedition laws, the Scott Parkin incident suggests otherwise. A few months ago, they arrested and deported a US anti-globalisation activist who was about to give a workshop on non-violent demonstration. Back then, they would have been unable to act against him had he been an Australian citizen. Now the gloves are off, and all protest or dissent more vigorous than writing polite letters to a newspaper is essentially a crime. Australia is moving closer to being like Singapore, where activism is reserved for those with nothing left to lose, and there are severe disincentives to rocking the boat in any way (see also: "relaxed and comfortable").

The fact that Labor whipped its MPs to vote in favour of the sedition law, even with the Tories not needing their support, is depressing, and doesn't bode well for Australia becoming a liberal democratic society again within the next decade or so. Perhaps the period of liberalism and civil rights of the past 3 or so decades was an anomaly, and in the longer, historical sense, authoritarianism (from the penal-colony days to the first Menzies era of which Howard is so fond) is the Australian norm?

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An Age piece on the Scott Parkin incident:

"For me, some of the really disturbing aspects of this situation have been the way that the authorities have come to conflate activism and terrorism," Dias says. "It basically means the end of freedom of expression, the end of being able to question the policy of the current government."
With state premiers preparing for the Council of Australian Government's summit on terror powers, Parkin's treatment led Victorian Premier Steve Bracks to sound a note of caution. "Without a proper explanation of why Scott Parkin was detained, there is the potential for the public to question the necessity of the law and whether it should be in place," Bracks said.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen would be proud, if not envious; compared to the present state of affairs, to say nothing of the new anti-terrorism laws being drafted as we speak, 1980s Queensland was a veritable Interzone of freedom.

And details have emerged of Parkin's extremist politics and dangerous history:

Too often physical confrontation becomes the story of a protest rather than the issue that drives the protest. Parkin teaches what Hollows calls "de-escalation techniques" to defuse potentially violent situations, and to avoid provoking police. He also advises on non-violent physical blockading methods.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said ASIO had not opposed the original visa application, but its understanding of his intentions had changed during his trip. Parkin was detained for "encouraging spirited protest".

It has been pointed out that the reason for this extraordinary action (which, incidentally, the Labor opposition fully backs; don't look for troublesome questions there) is that Parkin is a thorn in the side of Halliburton, who, as a contractor to the Australian military, are a matter of national security (a phrase Australians will be hearing a lot more of in future).

And more here:

Asked what advice he might give other travellers, he replied: "Be careful where you go and what you say, and look around at who's following you. We have to be careful, but we still need to stand up for what we're doing."
Or, alternately, "don't let the sun set on you in Australia, hippie". Left-wing troublemakers are on notice that they and their politics are not welcome in Australia.
The bill for his Australian adventure will top $11,000, including $777 for his imprisonment, $4235 for his air fare to Los Angeles, and $6675 in fares and accommodation for his two minders, whose tasks included accompanying Parkin to the toilet. The account will be presented to him should he return to Australia, which he says he has been forbidden from doing for three years.
Perhaps this is another sign that those of a liberal inclination should boycott Australia? Doing so would have an economic impact; for one, most of the Americans who travel abroad for personal reasons are towards the liberal side of the spectrum, and the cosmopolitanist trend is probably similar for other nations. If those who disagree with the present state of affairs boycott Australia, the tourism industry will take a hit, and I can't see an Australian Government ad campaign on Christian cable stations in Mississippi and Texas or right-wing satellite radio, promoting Australia as an ideologically sound destination for conservative holidaymakers, turning that around. Cultural exchange with the great redneck wonderland down under would also suffer, with the OFLC losing the opportunity to ban more arthouse films, progressive-leaning bands from abroad no longer stopping to play gigs at the Corner or Metro, and international arts festivals in Australia, stripped of first-tier international talent, looking increasingly parochial and small. Of course, such an action would hasten the destruction of the cosmopolitan inner-city culture and further alienate those latte-sipping refugee-loving tree-hugging vegetarian bicyclists Andrew Bolt and his ascendant ilk so despise; but for them, there is an alternative. To paraphrase Momus (substitutions in square brackets):
So just leave. [Australia] doesn't deserve you. Walk away. [Australia] doesn't need your talent, your creativity and your intelligence. Or rather, it needs them desperately, but it will never acknowledge that. It's too stupid to understand that. If it calls for you, it will call for you for the wrong reasons. It will call you up as a soldier. It will call for you as canon-fodder in some spurious and unnecessary war that serves the interests of 1% of its population and an even smaller percentage of the world's population. Even if it lets you live in relative peace as a mere civilian, it will force you to live in ways that destroy the world's weather systems and its environment. It will use your tax to fund pre-emptive wars of aggressive imperialism against impoverished nations with energy resources.
Get a passport, get a visa. Work a job, save some money. Come to Europe, come to Japan. Life is more civilised here. Come as you are, come to work, come to play, come to stay. Make love to foreigners, not [Australians]. Make non-[Australian] babies. Make your children world citizens, as you make yourself one.
John Howard, the Methodist Mahathir presiding over this new age of repressiveness, has described those whose lifestyles, politics or beliefs he disagrees with as "un-Australian". Perhaps now it's time to take the hint and exit this Roman shell?

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More details have emerged on the arrest of US peace activist Scott Parkin: it turns out that the government is holding him in solitary confinement, and billing him for it, until he renounces all claims against the government, a similar tactic to that used against asylum seekers. Also, it appears that he is being held on national security provisions, rather than character provisions, which entitles the government to block the hearing of his case. Meanwhile there have been protests outside the Australian embassy in the US, and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has protested the decision.

Which demonstrates a reemerging ugly side of the Australian Way. The legal principles of Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland are alive and well. The government's message here is: if you don't conform to our model of relaxed and comfortable Australia, we have the means to make things very uncomfortable for you. The principles of pluralism and democratic debate are about as relevant in John Howard's Australia as they are in Mahathir's Malaysia.

And it looks like Australia is establishing itself as a global centre for the exporting of hard-right ideology; the New Zealand Labour party claims that Australian Tory strategists and a hard-line Christian sect are involved in campaigning for the conservative National Party.

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A US peace activist visiting Australia has been arrested by the Federal Police as he travelled to a workshop on the US peace movement. The Immigration Department has stated that Scott Parkin, of Zmag, was arrested on "character grounds", and would be deported "as soon as practicable". (This is believed to be under provisions for cancelling visas where "a person's presence is, or would be, prejudicial to relations between Australia and a foreign country", which means that criticising US foreign policy is now officially an Un-Australian Activity.) Non-Government politicians, environmentalists and refugee-loving latte-leftist terrsymps are up in arms; the Herald-Sun-reading silent majority of suburban battlers, however, is on record as being "relaxed and comfortable".

Is the Australian government abusing its anti-terrorism powers to suppress opposing voices? Shortly after 9/11 in the US, Green Party activists found themselves banned from flying and feminists in San Francisco were investigated for al-Qaeda sympathies. Given the Australian authorities' fine tradition of creativity in defending the status quo (think Joh Bjelke-Petersen's police force), I wouldn't rule out that sort of thing being the unwritten law of the land.

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